“The Forever Purge” clumsily brings a famous horror franchise to a close

“The Purge” franchise will likely go down in history as one of the largest missed opportunities in the world of film. With each entry, the series consistently falls halfway between meaningless blockbuster and cinematic art. The films are a strange algamanation of violent thrills and political commentary that never seems to land quite correctly.

The franchise saw its inception in 2013 with “The Purge,” followed by sequels “The Purge: Anarchy” and “The Purge: Election Year” in 2014 and 2016, respectively. A prequel, “The First Purge,” was released in 2018 with a two-season television series (also titled “The Purge”) premiering later that same year. Now, in 2021, the series has supposedly come to a close with the “The Forever Purge.”

Like its predecessors, “The Forever Purge” centers around the annual holiday known as the Purge when all crime, including murder, is legal for twelve hours. As its title suggests, “The Forever Purge” tells the story of a small group of ranch hands who flee to Mexico after a nationwide organization of insurgents continue purging after the event has ended in the hopes of ridding the United States of immigrants.

From the beginning of the film, there is a noticeable decrease in gore compared to the other four films in the series. In fact, simple removal of the movie’s strong language and one or two close-up shots would likely warrant a PG-13 rating. This decision is sure to be a controversial one among fans of the franchise, but the toned-down violence in turn lets the movie focus on its central characters at a level not seen in any “Purge” film since Frank Grillo’s surprisingly complex lead in “The Purge: Anarchy.”

The film’s political themes also take complete forefront in “The Forever Purge.” While the first two movies of the franchise focused primarily on classism, each film starting with “The Purge: Election Year” has had inklings of commentary against right-wing radicalism. “The Forever Purge” takes this to a whole new level, depicting everything from anti-immigration attitudes, to racism and white supremacy, to domestic terrorist groups. In fact, the central conflict of an uprising in the name of a certain political belief is eerily similar to the January 6 Capitol siege, though this script would have been written far before those events.

While it is admirable for “The Forever Purge” to attempt commentary of current issues in the United States, it ultimately fails in saying anything meaningful. The plotline of the film seems like a blunt exaggeration of real-life problems, but it fails to actually comment on the matter. There is also virtually no artistic nuance, resulting in a bloated feeling when it comes to the movie’s themes. This is the same mistake that every film in the franchise has made (with the somewhat exception of “The Purge: Anarchy”), which is disappointing.

Another plot point that will surely be controversial is the film’s decision to not directly pick up from the ending of “The Purge: Election Year,” which sees the defeat of the New Founding Fathers and therefore the abolition of the Purge. Instead, a monologue in the opening credits tells the audience that the New Founding Fathers have been reinstated and the Purge is once again practiced. This strange choice makes “The Forever Purge” really feel like a project produced only for financial gain and unnecessary for the overall story.

Apart from the film’s messy screenplay, “The Forever Purge” succeeds in being an entertaining “guilty-pleasure” movie. As with all “Purge” movies, the actors are all relatively unknown to most viewers yet give effective performances. The direction, while not Oscar-worthy, is miles better than in most horror films, and the concept of the Purge in a post apocalyptic United States is as interesting as ever.

All in all, “The Forever Purge” is a sloppy but entertaining and mostly satisfying maybe-end to “The Purge” franchise. It is indeed disappointing that the films could never find a perfect balance between their unique ideas, horror conventions, and deeper themes. However, the film is a fun moviegoing experience, even if it does play it extremely safe.
“The Forever Purge” is now in theaters.